We all have our strengths, the things we do best. For some of us it may be that we are execeptional communicators or are great with numbers, or have an innate ability to see the big picture and are able to act on it with ease and effectiveness.
But sometimes, we can become so reliant on strength that we may become dependent and overuse that skill to where it becomes a weakness. Like the runner who works to set new personal distance and time records, overusing a muscle can lead to all kinds of injuries that require time off and perhaps even finding a new way to run.
Consider the senior executive I was working with recently who had a high “drive for results”. He was beloved by his bosses and peers since he was able to get so much done on his numerous projects. He was not only committed to high performance but also insisted they be done with speed and accuracy. As he was so successful, he found himself being asked to pick up new projects and pretty soon he was swamped and so was his team. His striving for perfection and a great outcome meant that he and his team wound up working late most nights and many weekends. Successful: Yes. Successful: No. The eventual result was that he was getting burnt out andhis team was getting angry and frustrated.
The solution for him was “dial down” his driving in several ways:
- First we worked on helping his see that his results did not have to be perfect everytime he worked on something. Very good was usually good enough.
- Second, we worked on helping him establish clear priorities based on his annual objectives so that he was not picking up many more responsibilities than he needed to
- Third, he had to learn effective ways to say “no”. We tried having him say “no”! but that felt a little rough for him, so he finally wound up with “You know, I don’t think I’m going to be able to take that on right now”.
- Fourth, we did a review of the talent on his team and helped him identify the strengths of his team members so that he could begin delegating some of the project management to folks who had specialties in those areas and could manage them more effectively than he could.
- We met with his team and had a frank discussion about project management and workloads. Using my resilience model, we were able to identify how best to manage the workload and where we should be off loading and on loading different projects.
Overusing a skill can be just as deadly as not being skilled in a particular competency. If you find that you are relying on the same talents you’ve always used, play around with some new ways to get things done. Not only will you learn a new skill but you may find that your overall effectiveness increases.